What can Loris Karius bring to Liverpool?


Having sealed the signing of goalkeeper Loris Karius for £4.7 million, Sam May takes a look at what the young goalkeeper can bring to Merseyside.

The Reds had been linked with a number of other German goalkeepers in recent times including Timo Horn of Cologne, Marc-André ter Stegen of Barcelona, Berd Leno of Bayer Leverkusen and ex-Manchester United keeper Ron Robert Zieler of Hannover.

Having spent 18 years at Mainz as a player and manager, Jürgen Klopp has strong connections with the Bundesliga outfit and has acted fast to secure the services of one of the best goalkeepers around.

It seems competition in the goalkeeping department is only going to get stronger with Karius being brought in to rival current Reds No.1 Simon Mignolet. With Adam Bogdan set to leave and Danny Ward expected to head out on-loan, 22-year old Karius is a no brainer.

Why Karius?

The German shot stopper has previous experience in England having joined Manchester City in 2009, aged 16. But would later make a permanent move to Mainz in 2012.

Athletic and likes to command his area, he went on to make 96 appearances for Mainz, maturing in the process, developing into one of the finest goalkeeping talents in Europe. Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Merseyside rivals Everton were all interested, but Liverpool have acted fast, and decisively for once, which maybe shows how Klopp is going to operate.

The fact is, he could have re-joined former boss Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund, the manager who game him the break to showcase his talent at the Coface Arena. However, the opportunity of a move to Merseyside to work under Klopp was too good to turn down.

At 6”2’, he commands his box. He has good vocally helping defenders, a great presence, sharp reflexes, and likes to organize the defensive line. He has completed 99 catches, to Mignolet’s 74 this season, highlighting he is more than capable to command a place and rival the 26-year old Belgium shot stopper.

His calm and composed, but also dominant approach, is something that is suited to Klopp’s style of play. Having averaged 2.1 saves per goal, to Mignolet’s 1.27, the facts seem to say that he is the perfect option.

He has a similar style to that of David De Gea at Manchester United and is expected to rise to the top of the Premier League.

Mignolet has improved. He still however seems to be unconvincing amongst Reds supporters. His poor distribution is a weakness and something Klopp isn’t impressed with at times.

It seems Karius will settle into to life on Merseyside quickly, and if given a chance, and performs well then who knows, he could be the Reds keeper for the next 10 years, and join the likes of Clemence, Groballar, Dudek and Reina as a real red No.1.


Middlesborough set to sign Ajax winger


Fischer, 21, is closing in on a move which would see the eight capped Denmark International move to Teesside, after Boro had a bid accepted by the Eredivise club, writes Sam May.

It is understood he has left the Danes’ training camp to fly over to Teesside to discuss the move and is expected in Middlesborough in the next 24 hours to discuss personal terms with Aitor Karanka’s side.

Having moved to the AmsterdamArena from FC Midtylland in 2011, he has made 35 appearances this season, scoring 10 goals, but seen his side fall short at the final hurdle, when PSV were crowned champions on the final day of the season.

Fischer was one of the most exciting young wingers in Europe before he picked up a hamstring injury which seen him spend 14 months on the treatment table. Since his return he has struggled to find form, but is hoping for a new start in England.

He will become Middlesborough’s first signing of the summer.

Five coaches that could form Rodgers’ coaching staff at Celtic Park


Sam May takes a look at who could potentially form part of Brendan Rodgers’ new look backroom staff at Celtic ahead of pre-season preparations and the new campaign.

The former Liverpool manager returned to former club Swansea when in charge at Anfield, drafting in five members to form his coaching team.

Who could be brought in?

1. Colin Pascoe (Assistant Manager)

Rodgers’ trusted right hand man Colin Pascoe is expected to move to Glasgow and assist the Northern Irishman with first team duties. The Welshman, 51, followed the former Reds boss to Anfield from Swansea in 2012, where he spent three years before being replaced by Sean O’Driscoll. Pascoe started his coaching career in the Principality under then Swansea manager Kenny Jackett.  He also served under Roberto Martinez and Paolo Sousa before Rodgers promoted him to assistant manager.

2. Chris Davies (Head of Opposition Analysis)

Another key member of his coaching team. Davies, was captain of the Reading youth team under Rodgers at the Royals, before taking up a sports and exercise science degree at Loughborough University. His role is to study opposing teams’ tactics and organisation, which he then feeds back to Rodgers and the players via a series of reports and presentations. Having followed the former Kop boss to Swansea and Anfield, it is understood Davies, who is currently Reading first-team coach, could now head to Glasgow as head of opposition analysis.

3. Ryland Morgans (Head of Fitness and Conditioning)

Morgans, has worked with Rodgers at both Swansea and Liverpool and left his role on Merseyside back in March to seek a ‘new challenge’. He has also previously worked at Fulham in 2010, before moving to his hometown club in South Wales. The Welshman is also a member of the backroom staff of Wales, who are preparing for the European Championships in France this summer. Being one of the best in the field, his duties include warming up the players prior to a match and physical sessions. He would also help run the Sports Science department, if brought in to the fold.

4. Glen Driscoll (Head of Performance)

Driscoll began his career in the ranks at Chelsea. He started as head of medicine before moving to work with the first-team squad. He later became the Blues’ first team conditioning coach under managers Avram Grant, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti. Rodgers was previously quoted saying about Driscoll: “He was head of medical at Chelsea, but what is unique about Glen is that he also has a strong background in football conditioning. So we are getting someone who has experience in both fields and his role will be to look at performance outside the field.”

5. James French (Performance Analyst)

Current performance analyst at Liverpool, French followed Brendan Rodgers to Merseyside from South Wales. Between 2010-11, he was an intern at Swansea working alongside Chris Davies. Born and raised in Portugal, he moved to Scotland in 2005 at the age of 19, where he studied Applied Sports Science at the University of Edinburgh, before graduating in 2010. He then secured a role as a performance analyst intern with the Football Association of Wales, where he simultaneously studied for a Master’s degree in Performance Coaching and Analysis at the University of South Wales, before heading to Anfield.

Gary McAllister to Celtic Park?


McAllister could be set for Celtic coaching role, writes Sam May.

Former Liverpool great and first-team coach, Gary McAllister could be heading back to his homeland this summer, to link back up with new Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.

It is understood the 51-year old Scot, could become the Northern Irishman’s No.2, as the former Kop boss, looks to re-shape his coaching staff ahead of the new campaign. A move would see him leave his ambassadorial role at Anfield.

Having been brought to Liverpool by the former Reds manager Rodgers in 2015, McAllister’s duties were to remind the Reds’ hierarchy of the importance of experience.

McAllister, who signed for the club aged 35, went on to make 87 appearances for Liverpool and helped his side to win the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup.

Rodgers, 43, could also look to bring in former assistant managers Colin Pascoe and Sean O’Driscoll who both worked with him on Merseyside, whilst Neil Lennon and Malky Mackay have also been noted.

Stuttgart’s Timo Werner a target for Premier League clubs?


With Stuttgart having just been relegated for the first time in 41 years, young Swabian forward Timo Werner may be an ideal target for several EPL clubs this summer, writes Sam May.
Becoming the youngest Stuttgart player to make his debut aged 17 and 164 days in August 2013, Werner, 20, has found life at Die Roten difficult at times.
He is seen as the most exciting attacking player at the club since Mario Gomez and joined the German side aged six, progressing through all the youth sides.
Having won the Fritz Walter Award as the nation’s best Under-17 three years ago, the winger scored his first Stuttgart goal against Eintracht Frankfurt in September 2013.  His brace in November made Werner the youngest Bundesliga player ever to score two goals in one league match.
Germany coach Joachim Low has previously labelled the player “outstanding” with names such as “Turbo-Werner” and “Stuttgart’s wonder-boy” also being touted. The fact is, he is quicker than Bayern Munich playmaker, Thomas Müller.
Despite signing a new contact at the club until June 2018, the forward could be become a shining star if given the chance in the English top flight with Stuttgart now resigned to second-division football for at least the upcoming season.
Once dubbed the “German Kingsley Coman”, the starlet has made 36 appearances in all competitions, scoring seven goals and making five assists this season but this has still not been enough to keep Die Roten from the drop.  At age 20, he already has made 95 appearances in the Bundesliga, scoring 13 times, but his progress has been much of a stop/go nature, and Stuttgart’s difficulties competing the last several seasons have certainly not created a strong platform for Werner to develop.
Having represented Germany at all age ranges, he is yet to make an appearance for Löw’s senior side. He was a target for Tottenham last summer, but the North London club opted to sign former Bayer Leverkusen attacking midfielder Son Heung-Min instead, due to the South Korean’s greater experience.
According to Bild, Stuttgart tried to sell Werner last summer for €10 million but no team was prepared to match their asking price.
But a year on, why can’t he work under the stewardship of fellow German Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool? Or provide cover for Harry Kane at Tottenham?
It is understood Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are all interested in his services. At 5ft 11, he is taller than your conventional winger – not surprising giving his upbringing as a striker.
Borussia Dortmund were said to be interested in Werner, although having signed Ousmane Dembélé, 19, from Rennes, it seems they may be less interested in the Stuttgart youngster from Thomas Tuchel’s club. The Premier League could be Werner’s next step in his career and a seen as a steal at €10 million.

Liverpool to rival Tottenham for Callum Wilson


Liverpool and Tottenham are going head to head for Bournemouth striker, Callum Wilson, according to Sam May.

Wilson, 24, missed part of Bournemouth’s Premier League campaign having picked up a serious knee injury in September against Stoke City.

Scoring five goals in seven appearances, the England Under-21 star, hasn’t netted since his return. This however, hasn’t put off Jürgen Klopp or Mauricio Pochettino.

It is believed, the Spurs boss is to be handed a £60 million transfer kitty as he looks to strengthen his squad and ease the burden on Harry Kane, 22.

Klopp is said to be keen on the Cherries’ Coventry born frontman as he looks to add firepower to his attacking line ahead of the the new campaign.

The Reds have also been linked with a move for FC Basle’s Cameroonian striker, Breel Embolo, 19, who has recently been targeted in a £20 million move to Tottenham.

Clearly, both teams are going to try and out smarten each other, when the new season begins.

A story of Shakhtar’s samba stars


A glittering array of imports from the shores of Brazil has played a major role in establishing Shakhtar Donetsk as a force among European football, over the years, writes Sam May.

Backed by the financial clout of club owner Rinat Akhmetov and inspired by the leadership of 70-year old Romanian manager Mircea Lucescu, who was hired in 2004, they have become a force to be reckoned with. Donetsk was founded in May 1936 and the city hasn’t looked back since.

Since the Ukrainian League was established in 1991, many Brazilians, such as Fernandinho, Willian, Fernando and Douglas Costa to name but a few, have graced the fields of the Donbass Arena, one of the finest football grounds in Europe.

Dubbed The Brazilian Colony, the Eastern European powerhouse is seen as a school for fledging young talents ready to be hand-picked and play among Europe’s elite. The fact is that the club make great profits from their transfer dealings and continue to nurture some of the worlds finest talents.

Both Porto and Villarreal have adopted the same strategy over recent years and Zenit St. Petersburg have now joined the bandwagon too.

Despite this approach, the club has always made sure that they have benefited in the long run, by ensuring their Champions League status stays firmly in place as well as their pursuit of the domestic league.

There has been a flock of samba stars that have gone on to better their careers elsewhere in-game after a spell at the Donbass. It all started with Brandão. Born in Sao Paulo, the current Bastia striker, signed for the club in 2002 from Iraty Sport Club.

The Shakhtar faithful would never have thought he would become an offensive main stay for years to come. Making a total of 140 appearances, he ranked up an impressive 65 goal tally, before departing seven years later joining Olympique Marseille in 2009.

Who would have known it was the start of a mini exodus of Samba talent to the Iron Curtain?

Then there was Elano from Santos in 2004, another key figure in this remarkable story. The former Manchester City player heaped praise on manager Lucescu during his time at the club, describing him as a “breath of fresh air” and that he “lives and breathes football”.

“He’s always watching videos and as you can see, all the Brazilians who come here are very talented and really make a name for themselves. That’s why they keep on winning everything” – Elano

However, it was the arrivals of Luis Adriano, Fernandinho, Fernando, Douglas Costa and Alex Teixeria that got fans hearts racing and the rest of the footballing world taking note.

Ilsinho, who recently signed for Philadelphia Union of the MLS , was brought in and then Luis Adriano, now of AC Milan and who become the all-time leading goal scorer for Shakhtar in October 2014, was rewarded with his first National call up soon after. Adriano, who scored 77 goals in 127 appearances, was signed from hometown club Internacional for a cut-price fee of £3 million in 2007 – a shrewd piece of effective business.

Fernandinho was the lynch pin in the middle of midfielder during his time at the Donbass Arena. His blistering pace and ability to shoot from long distances was a key part to his game, but the box-to-box player, who has a great passing range, an ability to breaking up opposition attacks and to creating goal-scoring opportunities, sent scouts circling for his signature, resulting in his £30 million move to Manchester City in 2013.

Alex Teixeira and Douglas Costa were next. Who? Asked fans at the time of their arrival at Ukrainian football in 2010. More importantly, who would have thought both would become two of the most iconic figures for both club and the country’s football landscape. Teixeria joined the club from Vasco De Gama for €6 million, aged just 19 in November 2009 and Costa in January 2010. Both became key figures for Shakhtar and popular with the home fans.

When Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich came calling, Shakhtar were reluctant to sell Costa, but a staggering €30 million for their talented winger soon changed their minds. He won many trophies with Shakhtar, including a domestic treble in the 2010–11 season, Premier League, the Ukrainian Cup and the Super Cup. He has become one of the consistent wingers in modern football and is viewed as a flash of brilliance throughout Europe.

The most recent example of the Shakhtar model is Alex Teixeira, who recently moved to China Super League team Jiangsu Suning despite being heavily linked with a move to Liverpool. The 26-year old became one of the most well-known stars in Ukrainian football, alongside Dynamo Kiev’s Andriy Yarmolenko.

Teixeira was always a major threat, perfect at drifting into channels, along with being wonderfully evasive in the penalty area. 22 goals in season 2014-15 raised eyebrows. In total, 89 goals in 223 matches then saw him move to the Far East for 50m euro. To think he cost the club just €6 million is astonishing.

Lucescu’s Brazilian revolution shows no sign of stopping and although some of the South American imports have failed to live up to their billing, Shakhtar have reaped significant rewards on those that have proved their worth. Since 2010, of the estimated €153 million Shakhtar have spent on new players, roughly €100 million has been on Brazilian players alone.

It appears that the Donbass Arena will continue to be an unlikely samba home away from home for Brazilian players, who have played a significant role in shaping the most successful team in Ukraine’s recent history.